It may not equal the intensity of a Super Bowl, an Ali title fight or an NBA playoff final, but the long-awaited, head-to-head battle between 7-foot-3 center Ralph Sampson of Harrisonburg, Va., and 7-1 Sam Bowie of Lebanon, Pa., will be the main event at tonight's 8 o'clock Capital Classic hight school all-star game in Capital Centre.
Even point guard Raymond Mccoy of Chicago Heights, Ill., says he is anxious to watch the tussle beneath the backboards between the two highly recruited prep stars. Bowie will play for the U.S. All-Stars, Sampson for the Metro Stars.
Bowie's high school coach yesterday announced his star has selected Kentucky from among more than 400 collegiate suitors.
Bowie did not arrive in time for any of the team's practices, but his coach said he will play.
"You're looking at instant millionaires in four years, if that long," said the 6-2 Mccoy, one of the top guards in the nation. "I really don't see any big differences between the two except for their names.
"I played with Sampson in the East-West All-Star game in Charlotte last week and it's only a matter of time for him. He can do everything."
The fluid Sampson, who averaged 30 points and 20 rebounds while leading Harrisonburg to a second consecutive Virginia state AA title, will be relied on heavily by the Metro team, seeking its second win the six years of the Classic (the Metro stars won for the first time last year).
"he shocked me when I saw how well he could dribble and shoot from the outside," said Lafayette (Ky.) High School's All-America, Dirk Minniefield, another classy guard who, like Mccoy, will keep an eye out for Sampson when he drives the lane. "For a man so tall, he can do everything."
When Sampson and 6-4 leaper Quintin Dailey of Cardinal Gibbons in Baltimore were added to the Metros as at-large selections, the lineup looked formidable. Especially since they already had 6-11 Thurl Bailey of Bladensburg High, 6-8 Mike Tissaw of Robinson, 6-8 Mike Mulquin of Georgetown Prep and 6-7 Kevin Darmody of O'connell.
But Bowie will be surrounded by enough muscle to keep him from being overworked: bulky 6-11, 245-pound Greg Kite from Houston, who will play despite breaking a hand last week; 6-10 Tim Andree of Birmingham, Mich; 6-9 Sid Green, a 33-point, 25-rebound per game performer from Brooklyn, and 6-9 James Worthy of Gastonia, N.C.
The swing man, 6-8 Clark Kellogg from Cleveland, and 6-7 derrick Hord of Bristol, Tenn., and Dominique Wilkins of Washington, N.C., are as tough outside as they are inside.
"Right now I have no idea who will start," said U.S. Coach Jock Sutherland of Lexington's Lafayette High. "I know I can't go wrong.
"In games like this, there's no time to coach. You just learn names and figure out how to give 13 Great Players Equal Playing Time," Sutherland said. "My first concern is to let them play. I'll keep size in the game against size. When Sampson is in, I'll have Bowie in. The rest of the time, I'll stay out of the way."
While much of the attention will be focused on the aerial show above the rim, the outcome of the game could depend on the back courts.
The Metro guards, although giving away a few inches to their U.S. counterparts, may have an advantage because of their familiarity with one another. De Matha's Sidney Lowe and Dereck Whittenburg and Mackin's Kenny Payne are excellent ball handlers and defensive players.
We'll try to control the tempo a little and get the ball inside." said Lowe. "A lot depends on what we do out front."
The U.S. guards, Mccoy, Minniefield, 6-5 Ricky Ross and 6-1 John Paxson are equally talented.
"We've heard so much about D.C. players it'll be interesting to play against them," said Ross who averaged 31.6 points and 10 rebounds per game for South High School in Wichita. "It'll be a good experience for me."
The scores of college scouts in attendance will get a good look at the players' defensive skills since they must play man to man. The quarters will be extended from eight minutes to 12.